You might want to post this in two segments, because I don’t think I’ll be able to post again for a while. And it is pretty long. (Note from Mom — I didn’t. Mainly because I didn’t know where to stop . . . )
From Lisboa, we went to Madrid by train. There was one older lady in the compartment with us, and thank goodness she was there! In the morning, she went over to the mirror and opened it up (which we didn’t know to do), and behind it were 4 water bottles, toothbrushes and paste, soap and a paper towel! We have used our three bottles for water ever since, and they work better than the one Rach brought, which leaks. None of us slept great on the train, but it wasn’t too bad. And we arrived safe and sound in Madrid.
Our hostel was walking distance from everywhere the guidebook recommended we see. We strolled down to the Palacio Real (King’s Palace, officially the royal residence, but the king doesn’t actually live there.), stopping by the Puerta del Sol. I hope that’s spelled right. It’s the place from which all distances in Spain are measured, but was under construction for some reason, so really boring.
The line to the Palacio was extremely long, and it’s pretty expensive, and we decided that seeing it was enough. We sat on the steps of the Catedral de la Almudena or Almuneda. I can’t remember which. It was only 1 euro to see the cathedral, so we went there, then bought lunch at a little grocery store (yea for cheap food!!!!) and went back to our hostel for lunch. And siesta. Rach has decided that the idea of the whole country taking a nap in the afternoon then staying up till way late is wonderful.
In the afternoon, we went to the park, then on to El Prado museam (It’s free after 6 pm.) I won’t bore you with the details, cause it was basically a museam. But I do like Goya’s paintings. The one guy looked so smug. How does anyone manage to paint such realistic expressions? My people look sort of happy or sad, but that’s it.
The next day we went to Segovia. It was once the capitol of . . . part. . .of Spain. Queen Isabella the Catholic is from there. There are parts of the castle there that are the same as they were in her days. Even a few of the furnishings. Queen Isabella , who alonge with her husband, Ferdinand, conquered all of Spain, is the queen that gave Colombus the funds to sail to the New World, but that happened here, in Granada, where we are now. The castle, or Alcazar is very well preserved, and one of my favorite places to visit. You can imagine you’re back in the 15th century using very little imagination.
Also in Segovia is an enormous Roman aqueduct. I think it’s 28 meters high at it’s highest point. Other than the last three feet where the water ran, it is made entirely without mortar. Very cool. Rachel tried to climb up one of the little bits of it (you can walk all around it, and touch it), and this little old Spanish man came up and yelled at us in Spanish: “This is a national monument and a world heritage site. It is prohibited to climb it! if you do, the police will come for you!” So we gave up the idea.
We did take in some of the night life in the Plaza Mayor, I went the one night, and Rach and Holly went the second night without me. There are so many people, and street performers, and a lady made a toilet paper sculpture using the air from a grate. And the second night, there was a fire juggler. It’s just different here. No one goes to bed until midnightish. In fact, we met more drunks on the metro at 7 am than at any other time.
We missed the train to Granada, even though we were there 4 hours early. The train was “compleato”. That was not fun, to put it mildly. I went ahead and got reservations to Barcelona (our next trip), and we found a bus station. There was a bus leaving for Granada half an hour before our train was to leave, and it arrived in Granada 15 minutes before our train would have. We prayed so hard that we would find some kind of transportation to Granada, and that it would be cheap. It was only 16.50 each! I believe that our train reservations would have been more than that. So far, our Eurail passes have not proved worth it. On our way to Segovia, the train was full, and if we took a later train, TICKETS were 15 euro, RESERVATIONS ONLY were 19 euro, the bus, (which we took) was available, and only 12.75, round trip. Right now, we are wondering why we bought the Eurail tickets in the first place. I’m starting to keep track of how much we are (will be) saving as we travel. So far, we’re in the hole.
I cannot say enough good things about Kevin and Wendy or Conrad and Heidi. Both couples opened their homes to us, fed us like queens, let us do laundry, loaned us towels (that’s a big deal to us), recommended places to visit, took us there, and did I mention food? I was a little nervous about crashing in on them while on vacation, but they have made us feel so welcome! I can’t descibe it.
Okay, I’m almost done.
The Alhambra of Spain. I have wanted to visit this since I read about it when I was ten or eleven. It wasn’t what I was expecting. They are doing reconstruction on a lot of it, and there are many places where you can no longer go, but WOW. It’s beautiful, and old, and so majestic. Here was the last stronghold of Islam in Europe, and with it’s defeat, Europe was considered a Christian continent. The war here was considered a noble war, where each side sent the bodies of the dead back to their people so that they could be given appropriate burial. When Boabdil conceded defeat, legend says that when he started to kneel before Ferdinand, Ferdinand embraced him beacuse of the great respect they had for each other. I still think it’s sad. The Moors loved their city, and cherished it for hundreds of years. Ferdinand and Isabella made Granada the capitol, and were buried here, but only two more kings ruled from here (One of which built a weird castle in the middle of the Alhambra, which doesn’t look right and was never finished.) before one of the kings decided to make Madrid the capitol, and left Granada and the Alhambra to decay. Napoleon’s troops did much of the damage, and at the time of Washington Irving, there were squatters living there.
As we were hiking up to the Alhambra, Holly said, “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” We teased her about that, since this place was conquered by “Christian soldiers”.
Today, we saw the actual caskets and statues made from death masks of Ferdinand and Isabella, and saw the Cathedral here. We also took pictures of the statue of Queen Isabella giving Christopher Colombus permission to sail, which as I mentioned happened here, at the Alhambra, later in the same year that they conquered the city. In fact, they were cash poor because of the military campaign, and had to give him jewels instead, which he sold to finance the journey. The museam at their burial place had some very cool things. For instance, there are actual outfits that Isabella and Ferdinand wore – one each, her crown, his sword, and the very flags that the Cristian army first raised over the Alhambra in 1492. *Shivers*
And now you’re up to date on the more interesting sites we’ve seen. Heidi has some pics on her blog, and Matt Wolfer (cousin) said he would put at least one of all of us on their blog “Roving around the World, I believe, and upload some to his flicker site, which I don’t know how to do. Holly managed to get one on her blog, Hollyhearsawho, I think, and if we can ever get our computer convinced that “msn.com” and “facebook.com” are actually domain names (It says unknown when we try.), we’ll get some of the pics on my computer to the web.